Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brothers and Sisters

When I was a young whippersnapper student writer, somewhere in later undergrad years, I won a place in a one-day seminar with the novelist/short-story writer Audrey Thomas. It was a cool honour and an interesting day, but the organizers overbooked the workshop a little, and Ms. Thomas wasn't really able to comment specifically on much of the student work. She may havesaid one or two other small things, but the meat of what she said about my story was how nicely unexpected it was that the close friends in the opening scenes eventually turn out to be brother and sister.

That stuck with me--not so much the compliment, although that was nice, but the pointing out that brother/sister relationships are not the most popular topic for stories, and that may well be because not everyone *has* an opposite-sex sibling, especially one that they are close to. It was a good reminder that I needed to check my work carefully for that sort of autobiographical creep--it may be that almost every one of my main characters in my earliest stories *did* have a close sibling. Maybe.

This goes back to that teenager centre-of-the-earth thing--I wasn't entirely sure how people without such relationships functioned, and I suppose I suspected not very well, even though I know some people who didn't, and did (something went wrong with that sentence). I've met a lot more people since then, only children, people estranged from their families, people perfectly polite with their sibs but just none-too-chatty, mainly all perfectly functional, and thus I've gotten over the urge to give every character a brother or a sister.

But I'm still immensely fond of my brother, and I guess I'd like to see our vibe represented in art a little more. I say this because the two of us just finished watching You Can Count on Me, a film that everyone in the world recommends as a great brother-sister films, and that we both loathed. I'm so disappointed, especially since every critic in the world (see the above link) loved it. Not sure what the misfire was there.

We loved The Savages and even Home for the Holidays was pretty good (I think I liked it more than B. did) but...are there others? Because I really can't think of any, and would love some recommendations if anyone has any... (yes, I make a point of watching these sorts of things with B.--what, it's the same as watching romantic movies with your SO, isn't it?)

I'm probably just blanking out of panic, but I'm having the same trouble with books. Of course there's Franny and Zooey, and I want to say Holden and Phoebe in Catcher, but that's kids and I'd actually like adult relationships if possible (being as I'm adult and all). What else... Oh, dear. Maybe I'm having this problem because it's late. I'll try again tomorrow, but if you have ideas, please share!!



Kerry said...

Judy Blume writes wonderful things about sibling relationships-- brothers in particular. She's the reason I wish I'd had one-- Sally and her brother Douglas in Starring Sally J Freedman, which is the best book ever. Also, Atwood's Elaine's brother in Cat's Eye (who was also called Douglas). I've noticed that brother-sister relationship are idealized. Sisters are a bit more fraught.

Rebecca Rosenblum said...

KC, Thanks for the tips! I am starting to think that my theory that I've read *Cat's Eye* is a delusion--I remember nothing, nothing! Must reread!

AMT said...

can only tell you about kids books, right now, that i remember: but. zilpha keatley snyder. good kids, good brothers and sisters.